Family-Based Green Cards
A. Immediate Relatives
“Immediate Relatives” of U.S. citizens are able to get Green Cards without any waiting period save that involved in processing the application. The following categories of relatives are considered “immediate relatives:”
- Spouse of U.S. citizen.
- Minor children (under 21) of U.S. citizen.
- Parents of U.S. citizen (if citizen is over 21).
- Spouse of deceased U.S. citizen.
Immediate relatives can usually adjust their status to that of Permanent Resident without leaving the United States if they originally entered the country with a valid visa. This process is called “adjustment of status to permanent residence.”
The most common adjustment cases are for the spouses of U.S. citizens. Marriage-based Green Card cases are always slated for an interview at the local District Office of the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service. And it is usually the easiest and quickest way is to obtain a Green Card for the spouse of a U.S. citizen. After the application is submitted, the foreign spouse will receive a work permit (“EAD”) and a travel document (“Advance Parole”) within 90 days and these can be extended until the actual Green Card is received. At the interview, the bona fides of the marriage will be reviewed by an examiner, as well as the finances of the couple, based on the Affidavit of Support and related documentation. If all is in order, the foreign spouse will receive the actual Green Card within 4-8 weeks from the date of the interview.
If the couple has been married for less than two years at the time of the adjustment interview, the Green Card will only be valid for two years. The foreign spouse must apply for Removal of Conditional Residence before the end of the two year period.
Same Sex Marriages
U.S. citizens may now sponsor same-sex spouses for Permanent Residence.
In certain instances, such as where the foreign spouse has a criminal record, the Immigration Service will require the submission of a waiver application, or applications. Typically, it will take several months for such applications to be adjudicated and the Green Card will not be issued until the waiver application is approved.
B. Preference Immigrants
The following categories of immigrants can also obtain Green Cards but they must first get a “priority date” and then wait for their turn before their application is processed. The waiting period differs depending on which preference the beneficiary is in, and which country they come from. Those from Mexico, China, India and the Philippines have longer waiting periods. Exact dates can be obtained by referring to the Visa Bulletin.
Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (age 21 or over);
a. Spouses and minor children of Permanent Residents;
b. Unmarried sons and daughters (21 or older) of Permanent Residents;
Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens;
Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens.
Note: In the Preference categories, the spouses and children of the beneficiary can be included in the application. In the Immediate Relative category, only the beneficiary is entitled to a Green Card.